The Early Edition: March 2, 2016

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

IRAQ and SYRIA

Ceasefire violations. Charges that the Syrian ceasefire has been violated have been numerous, American and international officials recording a “near-constant flow of accusations” since the truce went into effect on Saturday. However, the task force responsible for adjudicating them has so far publicly verified none of the accusations. [Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung] The State Department hotline responsible for monitoring the reports had a “shaky start,” reports Felicia Schwartz, noting that many Arabic callers struggled to communicate with the American officials manning the line. [Wall Street Journal]

Residents of Aleppo are preparing for the worst as the ceasefire agreement comes under strain, making plans in case of a siege by the Assad-regime. [Wall Street Journal’s Raja Abdulrahim] 

The House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted a resolution yesterday, accusing the Assad regime and its allies – including Moscow and Tehran – of committing war crimes in Syria, reports Nahal Toosi. [Politico]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out seven strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on March 1. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 14 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

A nanny who beheaded a child and carried it on the Moscow metro has said she was taking revenge against Russia’s role in killing Muslims in Syria. There are reports that the woman is mentally ill. [Reuters]

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY 

Digital privacy advocates have submitted amicus briefs calling on a federal judge to approve Apple’s request not to be forced into building software to assist the FBI break into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. [Reuters]

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson is supporting a compromise bill on encryption, an alternative to the approach being pushed by Sens Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein that would force companies to provide assistance under court order. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett] 

The New York Times editorial board comments on a federal judge in Brooklyn’s ruling in Apple’s favor against the Justice Department, concluding with Judge Orenstein’s point that “it is the responsibility of the courts and Congress to put sensible limits on how law enforcement collects evidence.”

The executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company will head up a new Defense Department board tasked with bringing Silicon Valley’s culture to the Pentagon. [The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel]

TURKEY 

Two clashes in southeast Turkey have resulted in the deaths of three Turkish soldiers and ten Kurdish militants, the Turkish army reported yesterday. They are the latest of hundreds of deaths since a ceasefire collapsed last summer. [Reuters]

Two women were shot and killed by police in Istanbul, Turkey yesterday as they hid following an attack with guns and a hand grenade, which failed to explode, on a police bus outside a riot police station. The police are trying to identify the women. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but both Kurdish rebels and a far-left militant organization have recently attacked police in the area. [AP]

NORTH KOREA

The UN Security Council has voted unanimously in favor of imposing tougher sanctions against North Korea. [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta and Choe Sang-Hun; Wall Street Journal’s Farnaz Fassihi] Secretary of State John Kerry said in a press statement that he welcomed the result, which signified a renewal of “our collective resolve to take concerted action” to counter the threat of North Korea’s “increasingly provocative behaviour.” Echoing Kerry’s sentiments, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement via his spokesperson in which he called the decision a “firm response” that “should put an end to the cycle of provocation and lead to the resumption of dialogue in accordance with the unified view of the international community.” [UN News Centre]

North Korea has fired six short-range projectiles into the sea, just hours after the UN vote was announced, in what is being seen as an act of defiance against the sanctions. South Korea’s defense ministry has confirmed that they were fired from Wonsan, a coastal city in the east of North Korea, and flew around 100 miles before dropping into the ocean. [Washington Post’s Anna Fifield]

The US has imposed its own sanctions on North Korea, to coincide with the UN’s. Among the blacklisted are the National Defense Commission and the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Military Commission, both of which allegedly took on central roles in administering North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. [Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon]

RUSSIA

A new US Navy Arctic exercise was announced yesterday, as Russia increases its military activities in the region. The focus of the exercise is officially scientific, however, rather than military. It also involves Canada, Norway and Britain. [Wall Street Journal’s Julian E Barnes]

The EU is to extend sanctions against Russian officials and pro-Moscow separatists in Ukraine. A “far more contentious” decision is due to be made in July, on whether to continue broader economic sanctions against Russia. [Wall Street Journal’s Laurence Norman]

SOUTH CHINA SEA

The restoration of an informal naval coalition between the US, Japan, Australia and India has been proposed by the chief of the US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry B Harris Jr, as a balance to China’s naval expansion in the South China Sea. He was speaking in India on Wednesday. [New York Times’ Ellen Barry]

China’s “self-defeating” military deployments antagonize other nations, which build up their own defenses, recruit the US and Japan as allies, and ultimately weaken China’s strategic position in the South China Sea. Dennis C Blair and Jeffrey W Hornung examine China’s recent activity in the region and conclude that the only real concerns other nations need have are about the “timing and precedent” of China’s actions. [The Washington Post]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A new US-Israel defense deal is likely to be at the top of the agenda when Vice President Biden visits Israel next week. The Vice President’s trip will also include a visit to the UAE. [The Hill’s Jordan Fabian]

Recidivism of former Guantánamo Bay detainees is “clearly a very real issue” but is being “underestimated” by the Obama administration, House Republican Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) put to the President in a letter sent this week. She also demanded an explanation as to why detainees are being transferred to countries that are recognized as state sponsors of terrorism, a reference to the fact that one detainee who was sent to Sudan is now a leader in the terrorist group AQAP. [The Hill’s Rebecca Kheel]

Two Italians held hostage in Libya were likely killed in a raid on an Islamic State hideout in Sabratha on Wednesday, the Italian Foreign Ministry has confirmed. The possible victims have been named as Fausto Piano and Salvatore Failla, employees of the Italian construction company, Bonatti, who were kidnapped in July 2015. [Reuters]

An Egyptian flight school student has been detained by immigration authorities in California after he posted a “hostile” comment on Facebook about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The gist of the comment, according to the student’s attorney, was “if I killed this guy I wouldn’t mind serving a life sentence and the world would thank me.” [The Intercept’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous]

The Justice Department has granted immunity to a staffer under former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, Brian Pagliano, in return for his assistance in the criminal investigation into classified information stored on Clinton’s private email server. [Washington Post’s Adam Goldman; The Hill’s Harper Neidig] A spokesperson for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign said that they were “pleased” that Pagliano is speaking with investigators. [Politico’s Rachael Bade and Josh Gerstein]

Britain is to spend another £642 million on replacements for Trident nuclear submarines, Defense Secretary Brian Fallon will announce tomorrow, despite the fact that parliament is not due to vote on whether to proceed with the nuclear program until later in the year. His announcement will make it harder for parliament to pull out of the project. [The Guardian’s Ewen McAskill]

Saudi Arabia has cut aid to Lebanon, in what is being viewed as “the latest of a series of newly assertive – critics say impulsive – foreign policy moves” by the new Saudi king and his son, the deputy crown prince, which are leaving Lebanon in the hands of Iran and its most powerful political and military organization, Hezbollah. [New York Times’ Anne Barnard]

Some 79 Boko Haram members have surrendered to the military in northeast Nigeria, including women and children, all of them starving. They are all currently being detained in military headquarters in Maiduguri, the current command center in the fight against extremists. According to those detained, many more fighters want to surrender due to food shortages. [AP]

Libya is now the “top military priority” for the West, replacing Iraq and Syria, says Olivier Guitta, citing the “rapid expansion of the ISIL in Libya in terms of fighter, leaders and territory” and the “political stalemate” that is “ongoing.” [Al Jazeera] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security

Zoë Chapman

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security, Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE